MMA: Whitefish’s Hamilton Ash back in the fight

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Whitefish fighter Hamilton Ash has gained a lot of clarity through some of his biggest defeats.

His most recent loss came on the biggest stage of his career to date. In a fight for Bellator, one of the biggest mixed martial arts promotions in the world outside of the UFC, he dominated his bout for the first two of three rounds. In the third, he started to relax — and was caught with a right hook to the jaw — falling to the mat for only the second loss of his professional career.

“Up until that point I felt great,” Ash said. “It’s a hard lesson to learn, but an extremely valuable lesson to learn.

“All I wanted was to fix my mistake and get back in there. I never lost focus or motivation. You can’t do this sport expecting to not have a few bumps and bruises along the way. I do it because I love it. I’ve definitely competed before for the wrong reasons. Something like (getting knocked out) is not going to stop me. It’s just going to make me better.”

Since that fight, he’s revised his fight style, cleaned up his routine between fights and began treating fighting as a full-time job. He has stopped coaching at the local gym — now working part-time with a neighborhood girl with autism to help her development — and started to stay in fighting shape between events, should he need to fight on short notice. His wife has helped him change his diet and kept him on top of his self-promotion, so he can get every fight opportunity possible.

It’s all part of a philosophy to make sure he fights on his terms in the ring, getting to his strengths and dictating the pace of the bout throughout.

“The reason why the (Bellator) fight went up on the feet is because I didn’t care where it went,” Ash said. “I never studied my opponents. I never thought about a strategy to beat them. I thought I’ll beat them anywhere. Now my strategy is to get you to the ground and submit you.”

Ash, is an expert on the ground with a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, a martial art that focuses on grappling and submission holds. Getting the fight to the ground favors him in nearly every fight he takes, which is why he is now less concerned with being able to stand toe-to-toe with boxers or kickboxers and fight them in their style.

That philosophy has translated into a pair of wins in the last year, one in Kalispell and another in Billings, both against heavier fighters.

Those fights, however, cost him an opportunity this winter in Canada, due to the lack of gaming commission in Montana. Because he fought in an unsanctioned state, he was forced to sit out for at least three months and miss a title fight that could have bounced him back to the big time quicker.

That time passed, Ash is on a card in Calgary tonight, with a promotion that has the ability to give him the platform he needs to get to the highest levels of the sport.

Hard Knocks Fighting Championship been the springboard for fighters like Ronda Rousey, Elias Theodorou and Misha Cirkunov to get into the UFC.

Ash will be fighting for the promotion in Hard Knocks 54, which will be broadcast internationally on beIn Sports.

Ash will again be fighting above his preferred weight of featherwieght (145 pounds), this time to face off against a young, up-and-comer at lightweight (155). He is pitted against undefeated Canadian fighter Alexi Argyriou, who is 5-0 in his professional career.

“It’s another challenge. When you’re a fighter, how can you say no to a fight?,” Ash said of moving up in weight.

“(Argyriou) looks really good. He’s got a big crowd of people behind him. (When it was offered) I started to get butterflies. That’s when I knew this was a fight that I wanted. When I feel like there’s a fear, that this is a guy that maybe (other) people are tentative to fight, those are the guys that I want to fight. Those are the guys that are going to test me the most. They’re going to help me rise to that level and they’re going to get me the furthest.”

Should he do well in this fight, there are likely even bigger fights in his future. Eventually, his plan is to fight in the UFC. That plan isn’t that complicated, as shared to him by UFC legend Chuck Lidell in a meeting set up through his sponsors.

“He said, ‘You just need to fight. And win.’”

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